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Jordan Christodoulou’s Experiences in Batase

I would always tell myself “one day I’ll visit Nepal, one day I’ll volunteer teach”, then ‘one day’ in August I realised I was living my life now and that now is a better day than ever. I found myself googling ‘volunteer teaching’ in Nepal and came across Take on Nepal’s website. It immediately caught my attention with its detailed volunteer itinerary and images displaying the past volunteers, the breathtaking views and the children in school uniforms smiling back at me. After a chat over the phone with Susan who was incredibly helpful and reassuring with all my questions I knew this is something I had to do. A few months later and I was walking off the plane in Kathmandu and greeted by three chatty and energetic guides from taken on Nepal. We whizzed through the streets as I caught glimpses of the shops and colour on my way to the hotel.

The next day I met the lovely Phulmaya and we set off for the monkey temple followed by a delicious first traditional Nepalese meal. Phulmaya and I are similar in age yet worlds apart and I enjoyed hearing stories about her studies and her journey so far as a take on Nepal guide. The trek the next day started from the outskirts of Kathmandu and after a good leg workout and views that made me pinch myself we stopped for a lunch overlooking the mountains before continuing on to Chisopani. We met two elderly men trekking the same direction as us and one told us his story of how his wife had passed away in the earthquake. Reaching Chisopani I was confronted with images putting into context his stories. I had no words for what the earth quake had left of the buildings, the picture still in my mind of an orange coloured four story hotel which was equivalent to Paris’ leaning tower of Pisa. It were as if somebody had uprooted the building from the earth and pushed it on it’s side, a shower curtain still attached and hanging out of one of the many crumpled holes created through the bricks.

After a night at the recently built hotel playing hang man and other games with Phulmaya and Sangita we set off again to Batase village. Reaching Batase I saw the remains of the past hostel that had been damaged in the earth quake and shown the make shift one to replace it, timber with a corrugated tin roof and walls. We arrived where I would be staying and I was greeted by friendly smiles as a marigold flower chain was placed around my neck. I met the other volunteers and after a delicious lunch headed down to the school to meet the students and teachers. The school, similar to all buildings in Batase, was a collection of rooms made with a timber structure and corrugated tin roof and walls and I instantly thought of the school I had gone to in Australia and how lucky we have it. The children were full of energy with smiles from ear to ear and the teachers so warm and welcoming and I felt excited to start my first day of teaching the following day.

My first day of teaching I was welcomed at the school assembly as I stood on stage to hear the traditional Nepalese and Batase song, all the students in neat rows dressed in school uniforms. Following assembly I assisted with the year three class, Miss Nimbala was amazing with the students as she taught English and I helped the children answer their workbooks. I was pleasantly surprised at how excited and eager these children were to learn and how each of them jumped at the opportunity to write answers on the board or read out loud in English. I remembered learning Italian back in primary school and how difficult I had found it, yet these year threes were speaking sentences and asking me questions in English! A true testament to the great teachers hard work and efforts at Batase school.

During the next 12 days at Batase village I was able to teach the year ones the chicken dance (which we danced 100 times over) and the year twos mathematics. I taught the year threes the fruits in English and how to make chatterboxes that became a hit back at the hostel as I taught a group of boys how to fold the paper. After school I would play soccer with the boys and skip rope with the girls. One afternoon little Sangita in year one threw a hacky sack made of dried leaves and tied with string at me and after a minute of confusion I realised this was a game and she wanted me to throw it back. At that moment I realised these children make there own fun out of the resources they have, and not once do they complain. The children taught me just as much as I taught them and I am so grateful for that.

Every morning I woke with the sunrise (and the crow) to walk the paths up the mountains or practice a yoga session with the children at the hostel. As my time was coming to an end I felt like I had only just started to get to really know the children at the hostel and would have loved to have stayed longer. I have been back in Australia already over a month now and it’s taken me so long to write of my stay in Batase Village, not because I haven’t known what to say but because I am back to my fast paced life trying to squeeze in my busy lifestyle.

In Batase Village life slows down – you have the time to appreciate your life and the people in it, you get the chance to be a kid again and play soccer with the boys or skip rope with the girls and the time to make a small impact on these amazing students lives. I will always remember and cherish the time spent with the children at the hostel and Batase village and although it was so sad to say goodbye I know that it won’t be forever. I will forever be grateful for the experience and will continue to encourage everybody to volunteer with Take on Nepal.

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